Film Review – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Spider-Man films have a history of being hit or miss. As long as Sony as it at the wheel, the quality of these films will continue to vary across the board. When Sony first announced its plans for an animated Spider-Man film, I was apprehensive. My childhood is scarred by the memory of Sony’s disastrous intervention into Spider-Man 3. My recent memory is scarred by Sony’s disastrous re-introduction of Venom. However, I am glad to say that the team behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse managed to capture the spirit of the character in a way that none of the previous seven films have before.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Written By: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
When Miles Morales (Moore) is bitten by a genetically engineered spider, he gets much more than he bargained for. Not only does Miles get the powers of Spider-Man, but he is thrust into the middle of an inter-dimensional scheme by Kingpin (Schreiber). Not only this, but Miles runs into the Peter Parker of another dimension (Johnson). Parker begrudgingly takes Miles under his wing as they search for a way to stop Kingpin and get Peter back to his dimension.
Peter and Miles are joined by the Spiders of other dimensions along the way as they find Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (Steinfeld), Peni Parker/ SP//dr (Glenn), Peter Parker/ Spider-Man Noir (Cage), and Peter Porker/ Spider-Ham (Mulaney). Together the gang teaches Miles what it means to be Spider-Man as they face off against Kingpin, Scorpion, Doc Ock, and the mysterious Prowler as they find a way to save reality and get back home.
I’m a web head. I grew up with Spider-Man: The Animated Series of the 90’s and Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy. However, as mentioned before, I was apprehensive when this movie was first announced. Sony tends to bite off much more than it can chew with Spider-Man. They tried to cram three villains into Spider-Man 3 and it killed the trilogy. A few years later and they tried to cram three villains into The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This year they tried to cram Venom into existence without Spider-Man and it fell into utter nonsense.
The sheer ambition of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is bigger than anything that Sony has attempted with the character in the past. Not only does the film tackle several iterations of the character, but it also takes on its fare share of villains. This worried be greatly upon announcement. Thankfully, the directors knew how to juggle each of these characters appropriately without overloading the film. The film is not only a triumph for the character, but for all superhero films and franchises.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse encapsulates the spirit of Spider-Man as a character better than any film has before it. Part of the draw to Spider-Man is his ability to live in world with real consequences, but to also be fun and lighthearted. Too often the movies have swayed too much to one side, unable to find perfect balance. Into the Spider-Verse succeeds in the fact that it is perfectly balanced, and is neither too dark nor too whimsical.
The relationship between Miles Morales, a naive spider-newbie, and Peter Parker, a disillusioned spider-veteran, allows for both sides of the character to be believably explored in great detail. Miles gets to see the action through the lens of someone who finds it all new and exciting. Peter is forced to see the action through tired eyes, well aware of the side-effects of a radioactive spider bite. Adding the other spider-people to the mix gives the film the opportunity to change lenses repeatedly, blending both sides of the Spider-Man tone together beautifully.
Phil Lord, writer/co-director of The Lego Movie, shines through this film. His ability to believably blend realism and surrealism together through the characters and the universe is a definite gain for this film. He uses every facet of what animation and Spider-Man have to offer to deliver a story that is heart-wrenching, fun, and fantastic.
The bar for what passes as “good” animation has been set fairly high. Pixar is constantly pushing the limits of CG animation, and most studios fail to catch up to their level. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not only matches Pixar’s pace, but in many ways surpasses the studio on this account. The detail and design of the film is incredible to say the least. Not only does the film establish its own comic book-esque style, but it also juggles several styles between its inter-dimensional characters.
This film is beautiful to look at. It’s achievement in design and texture is on par with the likes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Toy Story. The effort that the animators put into the film is palpable in every frame. Characters feel real and emotive. Environments feel alive and immersive. The story revels in a visual wonder that is simply unachievable in live-action story telling. The visual style not only sets the film apart from other Spider-Man films, but it takes the narrative to an entirely new level.
Characters, events, and actions pop off of the screen as if it were a frame in a Marvel comic book. Generations of Spider-Man visuals and imagery come to life with greater dimension than they were inked with. Iconic moments from film, TV, and comic books are brought to life with a deep respect for the style in which they were created with. The animation style is a tribute to the grand legacy of both Spider-Man and Stan Lee, and it sets a new standard for all studios.
It is a great year for Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin). Between Daredevil Season 3 (RIP), Marvel’s Spider-Man, and now Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Kingpin is at an all-time high. While traditionally known as Daredevil’s arch nemesis, the character has been at Spider-Man’s throat ever since his debut in 1967. This film provides another great transition of the character from page to screen. The film manages to carve out its own version of the character. It does so without encroaching on Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance or Insomniac’s interpretation. Kingpin is a grounded, brutal, and a well-rounded addition to the film. Despite having no legitimate superhuman powers, he manages to stand as a menacing threat to all of the Spiders.
Boy are there Easter Eggs in this film. From Community to Shaun of the Dead to Spider-Man 3, references in this film are endless. Fortunately, the film does a phenomenal job of ushering in this references without detracting too much from the story itself. References and Easter Eggs pop up organically, as opposed to being shoehorned in for a little bit of crowd pleasing.
Keep your eyes peeled because there are also dozens of fantastic nods to the character and his illustrious pop culture career. From comic book covers to movie stills and iconic lines and poses, Spidey’s entire history is blended into the Spider-Verse. Whether you’re a Spider-nerd or you’ve only seen a few of the films, there will doubtless be something for you to pick up on.
The First Without Stan Lee
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse carries an unexpected weight with its release. This is the first film featuring a Stan Lee created character to be released following his death in November 2018. His cameo is coincidentally appropriate for coinciding with this designation. It’s funny, yes, but Stan Lee also delivers a rather charged and emotional line to Miles. It feels as if Stan the Man had one last nugget of encouragement to drop before he finished up his work.
With three other Marvel films already wrapping production at the time of his passing, I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of Stan Lee on screen. These films will undoubtedly pay tribute to Stan Lee in their own way, but I can’t imagine any of them doing more justly than Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse already has.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a unique and rejuvenating take on the Spider-Man mythos. Combining an exciting new art style with polished story telling, Spidey’s latest adventure is one for the books. It’s a love letter to the character and all that he stands for. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cheer for Miles Morales as he finds himself inside of Spider-Man. For once, I actually can’t wait to see what Sony has plans for next.
P.S. this is what it feels like when you exit the theater after watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It’s that good.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? Comment down below!
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